Sunday, July 22, 2007


It’s been a tough week, but not without its positives – I may have tossed and turned on more than one night and burst into tears more than once, but not to worry (how’s that for a lead-in?). Monday got off to a shaky start when I did my rounds around town and one of my favorite people looked, smelled and acted drunk. I finally decided I was uneasy about this when he got a little hostile. That night, I asked Youssef (my advisor!) for advice and he told me not to be seen with him around town; just to keep it professional, and that when he is not drunk, this person is very nice (which I have always found him to be). In the site report for the transition way back when, Lee had mentioned that there were town drunks and glue-sniffers and to stay away from them lest my reputation be damaged by association (I don’t accept lunch invitations from single men, either, for the same reason – I might have mentioned this before – I feel Azrou is a liberal site, but I can tell from walking around in my neighborhood that I am not as anonymous as I feel, and people do like to talk about other people’s business here, so I don’t want to give them ammunition. Also, I may have my fair share of male PCVs over but no solo single Moroccan men).

Actually, the tough week may have started last Saturday night. Amanda, Youssef and I were on the way to my house to watch their wedding DVD and there was lightning all around – I suggested we go to the roof to watch nature’s fireworks. As we were passing the mosque, the wind picked up, and Youssef decided to head back home to close all the windows. Only a couple of minutes later, the wind kicked up a dust storm. These happen in the south all the time, but usually people are indoors – we were outside, with no protection, with dirt getting into our eyes, ears, noses, mouths, clothes, skin – we could do nothing but huddle. The wind stopped, we resumed walking, and then it started to pour (as I had watched the lightning, I remarked that I didn’t hear thunder so the storm must not be close – wrong). We ran for a building with an overhang and stayed there, comfortable though a little cold and damp, until a man decided to stand uncomfortably close to us. Finally the rain let up a little and we started walking again – and then the rain started again, and we got wetter and dirtier. We ran for it, in the dark, on the uneven rocky ground, and finally made it in with no mishaps. Straight into the shower – her first – and then we watched the DVD. Amanda stayed over as the storm continued, and Youssef never joined us. She blamed this storm for her coming down with something that knocked her out for days – I may as well blame my tough week on it!

I decided to remove myself from the situation with the drunk person and just go home and stay home. I did a thorough cleaning – which I needed, after the storm – there was quite a bit of dirt that blew in (more than usual, that is). And I read a book – nice to escape for a few hours and join another world (“The Good Husband of Zebra Drive,” the latest in the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, transported me from northern to southern Africa). And I went for a walk at night with Youssef (since Amanda was down for the count) – the switch from morning to evening exercise means less overall exercise, but more getting done during the day. In addition to talking about drinking (which is forbidden by Islam and illegal in Morocco but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen), we talked about other problems – prostitution, which is big in the Middle Atlas, and kif (marijuana), which grows in the Rif, in the north (which is part of the reason why there are no Peace Corps sites there) but is a problem throughout Morocco.

As we were walking, we saw the slightest crescent of the waxing moon, and Youssef told me that in Islam, you can make a wish when you first see the beginnings of the moon every month. I told him about “star light, star bright” and that I make a wish every night. But nothing wrong with an extra wish every month! We talked about constellations, too – a volunteer who was visiting last weekend told me that he had been told that the three stars in Orion’s belt were three women weavers in Berber legend. We looked up Berber astrology on the internet and found that the Milky Way is called the straw – there was a thief, and Allah put a hole in his sack and the straw spilled out all over the sky.

Tuesday was an interesting day. Josh, one of the nearby Environment volunteers, came by with a friend of his who had just finished a six-month stint with Doctors Without Borders in the Ivory Coast. It was interesting to talk to her about her experiences and to hear about the organization. They are not a development agency; they respond to crises. They take doctors, nurses, and anyone else – the “anyone else” people work in logistics. They don’t have a lot of freedom to move or tour because they are often in dangerous places, but there is vacation time, so you can get out to nearby interesting and safer destinations. They say not to judge the organization by one assignment but to try more than one, and often people do – she would do it again. Would I? I think my Peace Corps service would qualify me for an “anyone else” job. I’d think about it! She was working on malnutrition. So – that was the morning (I served tea and coffee but still haven’t stocked up on snacks to serve guests). In the afternoon, I had tutoring and went to the artisana to talk to my counterpart, who I hadn’t seen in a while. In the evening, Jong came to visit! She was in my CBT group but was put in a site far in the south, so I don’t get to see her often. She signed up to do a summer camp here in Azrou so she’s staying with me for the rest of the month! It was good to see her and to catch up. She taught me a card game, Piffle, which is similar to Nertz – another double (or more people) solitaire game in which you have a pile of cards that you have to get rid of, and then you total the number of your cards in the shared top while subtracting what is left in your piffle pile. We have been spending quite a bit of time on Piffle! In her site, she does not leave the house during the day – she plays cards with her host family or just rests. She goes to sleep in wet clothes, and when she wakes up in the middle of the night, hot and dry, she gets wet again so that she can get more sleep. She’s obsessed with knowing the temperature (in the 100s in her site) and brought her Radio Shack clock/thermometer with her – and, as if the universe knew she came here for some relief, it’s cooled off quite a bit here since she came (or since the storm) – has maybe been in the 80s during the day and 70s at night. Of course, she can’t get a lot of sleep, since the construction outside starts so early in the morning, every morning – and now there is some work being done on the building on the other side of mine, so there’s loud banging in stereo all day long every day. I have been focusing more on the fact that the construction is in danger of obstructing my view, but every so often it’s so loud that it’s hard to concentrate, and when I have guests I am all too aware of the fact that it wakes me up early every morning. This week has been particularly irritating, with scraping and hammering noises that are nails-on-a-chalkboard-like in their intrusiveness.

Wednesday I resumed working on the Project Plan and Knowledge, Skills and Attitudes. Somewhere – maybe Wednesday itself, maybe the week before – there was a shift from enjoying the strategic thinking and collaborative process on this assignment to feeling stressed about it, under pressure, not happy with how it is going or with working on it anymore…. This project is taking more time than expected and I want to get back to my primary Peace Corps assignment and routine (or lack thereof) – I am tired of sitting in front of a computer screen and working with Word and Excel for hours on end. I need a swim…I need a massage…I need a CPK barbecue chicken salad with two things of extra barbecue sauce on the side. This project stress mutated into an even bigger stress, thinking about what the future holds. I don’t want to have a job where I sit in front of a computer all day, even if there is strategic thinking involved. I don’t want to work at all. And I don’t want to look for a job (I had been doing so well in not thinking about this so far). Tossing and turning about the project then escalated into more tossing and turning (also stressing about friends wanting to visit this fall and what I should do with them – too many options! How to guide them? I’ll expand on that in another post…although I feel calmer about that too in the light of day and am on the road to getting over it and figuring it out)….Thursday I redid the project plan tasks to make them look more consistent and now I am happy (though not finished) with them and Friday I started putting all of the KSA from the Word worksheet into the Excel spreadsheet; this is taking much longer than I thought it would, and I decided to stay at home today and keep working on it, since the Program Manager said she was coming into town tomorrow on her way to visit another site and she wanted to have coffee and talk about it. Thinking about her impending visit is what caused me to burst into tears this morning, but a little Piffle before Jong went off to camp and now working away on it have cheered me up somewhat (and I managed to move thinking about future employment back to the back of my mind for the time being).

Thursday morning I was calmer, except that I ruined a skirt when a pink Moroccan blouse that I had bought in a hurry in the Rabat medina the day I went to the eye doctor bled all over one of the new skirts that my sister had brought. Amanda and Jong both told me it’s fine – looks batiked – but it is now the official evening exercise skirt. Then I worked on KSA for about eight hours solid on Thursday and eight hours solid on Friday, until I could look at the computer screen no more, culminating in going to sleep before 8:30 on Friday night. Yesterday I went to Fes with Amanda and Youssef and met up with Rose and Paula, who also came for the day. Amanda, Youssef and I got there early, had coffee, and walked around the old medina. It’s funny – I am used to being a third wheel (or, as I sometimes put it, sitting with the coats), but they are still in many ways getting used to being a couple, and I think that by being a third wheel for them I am helping with that! Anyway, going to the Fes medina was good – I think I should bring all of my visitors to Fes (the start of the road to figuring out the plan for my visitors). I bought a skirt to make up for the ruined one, and finally a rug for the zen room – not from a rug shop but from a shop selling pillows, scarves and other things from India and the Far East – the rug was on the floor, not intended for sale – but I got a good price and I think it’s beautiful and I have been wanting something for the zen room for a while and I decided to just get it.

Then we met Rose and Paula at the Palais Jamai for lunch. We’d intended to sit by the pool, but opted for the air conditioning…so I have pent-up sit-by-the-pool (not to mention pent-up swimming), so that may be in my near future. I didn’t get a spa treatment, either, and hope there is one of those in my near future as well. My shoulders have that computer stress! I was going to go with the GLOW camp girls on a hike today, but I cancelled – wanted to work (and to write!). What I don't have, at least, is pent-up Marjane demand! We went to the one in Fes before taking the grand taxi home - got some peanut butter and some cheese!

I’ll close with a couple of stories. Earlier this week I was crossing the dirt path between my house and the artisana, and I saw some boys filling yogurt-drink cartons with some chalk or other white (probably toxic) dust that was in a pile by a heap of broken bricks. They started to pour the chalk in lines along the dirt. Foul lines? Batter’s box? For a minute I got excited – and I then I realized that they were drawing a soccer field on the dirt where they usually play soccer. For a minute, though, I could fantasize about hearing the crack of a bat (not that it wouldn’t have been a ping). And while I'm on the subject, as I write and work today, I'm peeking at the British Open leaderboard (since I can't download the software to listen to it - same software that would enable me to listen to baseball games - if anyone can tell me why when I click onto "download indows media player for mac OSX" it doesn't actually download software that I can use....anyway, it looks as though it's an exciting Sunday at Carnoustie.

Also – now that it is summer, with family visiting from out of town or out of the country, there are a lot more ceremonies. Almost every day I hear drums and horns as a parade of people passes. There seem to be more funerals, too, but I think that’s just a coincidence. The picture is of a circumcision procession, on the way to the mosque – the little boy on the white horse is smiling, so I think this is pre-; they go to the mosque and then go back to the family house for the actual snip.

Hello. I am starting my PCV PST there in just over a month. I have enjoyed reading your blog. I was wondering if you wouldn't mind emailing me so I could ask your advice on packing and anything else you would like to share!! psactress at aol dot com. Thank you!
I would love to! I was hoping this would be helpful to someone coming here in the fall! I have three other PCVs over right now, and this is some quick advice - a computer is just about essential - I didn't bring one but had someone bring one back for me. Bring things for both cold and hot weather. Bring loose clothing. Bring what you have - don't buy anything new. Backpacker's backpack, regular backpack for weekend travel, big rolling suitcase. Bring sleeping bag. Don't bring inflatable mattress or short-wave radio or portable shower. Bring music and DVDs.
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